After the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) decided to implement the mid-day meal scheme through a centralised kitchen, the NCP on Wednesday urged it to reconsider as women’s self-help groups (SHGs) warned that they would protest against the move that would snatch their livelihoods.
As many as 200 women’s SHGs have helped implement the mid-day meal scheme for civic schools since 2012. Last year, the PMC, as per the instructions of the state government, decided to give part of the work to the Akshaya Patra organisation, which was going to implement it under Corporate Social Responsibility. The civic body had provided them with a property to set up their facility. However, the organisation failed to begin their work in December 2018, so the civic administration sought proposals from other organisations to implement the mid-day meal scheme through a centralised kitchen. The facility would cater to 2.2 lakh students in 640 schools eligible for the scheme under the PMC’s jurisdiction.
The civic administration justified its decision citing the state government rule that the mid-day meal scheme should be implemented only through agencies having a centralised kitchen.
Women’s SHGs decided to protest against the move, which would result in them losing their source of income, following which the NCP decided to support them.
In a proposal tabled in the standing committee, Leader of Opposition Dilip Barate and NCP corporator Priya Gadade urged the cancellation of the PMC’s decision, saying it was an injustice to SHGs. They also said a decision should be taken for the empowerment of women.
“Most of the women in SHGs are destitute, widows or from a minority or backward class. The PMC decision to take away work from them would lead to them losing their livelihoods and we condemn the decision. The PMC should withdraw its tender process or there will be a protest by the women’s SHGs,” Gadade said in her proposal.
Barate said the PMC has been known for effective implementation of programmes for women’s empowerment, which are followed across the country. “The PMC continues to provide women’s SHGs with means to earn their livelihood and even provide them with a market for the products,” he said.
In the past, PMC implemented the mid-day meal scheme through SHGs but faced problems due to incidents of food poisoning. The mid-day meal scheme has been put into practice since 1995 for students from Class I to Class VIII. The state government has laid down specific guidelines on the kinds of food and method of preparation.